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Geckos secrets
MRIC 2014/15

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Geckos secrets

"Discovering Geckos' Sticky Secrets"

Tuesday, September30, 2014 | 12:30-1:30 p.m. 
Crest-Horizon Room, Idaho Commons

Travis Hagey - Biological Sciences

For hundreds of years, scientists have been intrigued by the question of why animals are shaped the way they are. Studies of ecological morphology (the relationship between an organism’s form, function, and environment) bridge multiple disciplines, including biomechanics, ecology, phylogenetics, and comparative methods. As part of his doctoral degree, Travis Hagey gathered data and tested hypotheses considering links between morphology, performance, and ecology, focusing on the adhesive abilities of geckos. Geckos are an understudied, diverse group of lizards, well known for their adhesive toe pads. Hagey proposes that geckos are an excellent interdisciplinary study system due to the breadth of morphological, performance, and ecological variation across species, the presence of many recent phylogenetic hypotheses detailing evolutionary relationships among gecko species, and the fascinating characteristics inherent in the gecko adhesive system.

Growing up camping, helping his father rebuild classic cars and playing with Legos, Travis Hagey acquired an interest in biology and engineering early in life. Prior to high school, He was convinced he wanted to be a paleontologist. In college, his interests transitioned to evolutionary biology, leading him to complete B.S. in cellular biology from Western Washington University. As an undergraduate, Hagey completed a lizard ecology field course taught by Dr. Roger Anderson. This course set him on a herpetological research trajectory that led to his Ph.D. adviser at the University of Idaho, Dr. Luke Harmon. During graduate school, the novel adhesive system of geckos became Travis’s main research topic, incorporating biomechanics, evolution, and ecology. To fund his postdoctoral research, Travis collaborated with Dr. Matt Riley in the UI’s Mechanical Engineering department, receiving funding from the BEACON Center for the Study of Evolution in Action.

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